to be or not to be connected (and how much)

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Over the past 20+ years, the internet has become a source replete with information and seemingly everything else one needs, and now even social networking! Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, GooglePlus+, digg, flickr, Pinterest, Foursquare, and countless more social networking sites have banked millions of users in a flash. People are eager to virtually connect.

This acquisition between man and machine has led “Internet Addiction Disorder” to be considered as a new diagnosis in the upcoming revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The point is, people can’t seem to get enough! A 2011 comScore report explained that, “social networking is the most popular online activity worldwide accounting for nearly 1 in every 5 minutes spent online in October 2011.”

Many studies have revealed a positive correlation between time spent on the internet and levels of depression and anxiety. I have heard many first-hand accounts of the “to be or not to be connected” dilemma. It seems that so much happens through social networking that it is actually extremely difficult for teens (and increasingly, for adults) to not be connected. And once connected, it’s even harder to prevent yourself from falling into the deep abyss that is social networking.

Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, births, deaths, sales, events, gatherings, parties, you name it, it’s out there. Status updates, tweets, Photoshop (yes, people alter their photos) and Instagram allow users to show only their most prideful moments and impress upon their viewers only the life that they want to promote having. People show only what they want others to see. The idea of who they want to be. A true avatar. Of course, at the deep end of the abyss lie phenomena such as exchanging passwords, “Facebook stalking” and bullying.

There is also a valuable side to it all. Social networking has aided in countless reconnections of long lost friendships, can be a source of speedy free flowing, useful information, and can offer a forum in which to broadly share anything in one fell swoop. And let’s face it, it can be fun!

So, if you engage in online social networking, to be or not to be connected is probably less the question than the question of how much feels like the right balance to you. How much time and how many networking outlets allow you to get what you are looking for but not creep over the edge of “too much?”

Some things to keep in mind as you engage online:
Behave responsibly. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.
There is no privacy guarantee. Anything can be cut and pasted
Be selective. Choose your friends wisely!
Use trusted sources.
Know where your information is coming from.
Don’t believe everything you read. Realize that people share what they choose to share and that many times, this is not the entire story.
Don’t compare. Just as we must be weary about the altered photos we see in magazines, we must be clear that we may be getting the edited versions, photos and stories of the people with whom we connect.
Know your limits. Recognize when you are spending excess amounts of time glowing by the light of your computer screen and know when to back away.
Recognize when social networking changes from fun into depression or anxiety, e.g.: “everyone else is doing… except for me.” “I need to post something to show that I am fun, cool, popular, etc.”

So off you go, perhaps to tweet or to check your Facebook. Whatever you choose to do, make it your intention to keep in mind what you are wanting to get out of these engagements and make sure that you get what you are looking for. If you’re not, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate, scale things back or pull the plug for a while! Or… mix it up and go old school! Turn off your computer and your phone and engage over a coffee or a meal with someone!

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About Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

Jodi graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY at New Paltz and earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University. In addition to over a decade of work as an LCSW and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist with individuals, families and groups in her private practice, Jodi is a NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Certified Personal Trainer and created Destructively Fit®, a training that addresses eating disorders within the fitness industry. She is a former director of Day Treatment at The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders and a founding member of Metropolitan Psychotherapy and Family Counseling Practice. Jodi also specializes in infertility and has served on the Clinical Advisory Board of Seleni Institute since its inception. Jodi is the creator of a curriculum on eating disorders for the Graduate School of Social Work at New York University and has been teaching this course, as well as guest lecturing in the NYU Post-Master’s Program, since 2007. Jodi actively lectures and teaches students, families and professionals throughout the metropolitan area about the etiology, prevention, treatment, assessment and work with eating disorders. Through psychotherapy and supportive work with adolescents, adults and families, Jodi works to create a secure sense of self, increased self-esteem and a healthy relationship with self and others. She works with an eclectic person-centered approach and tailors her practice techniques to the unique needs of each individual. Please feel free to contact Jodi directly in her Greenwich Village office, 212.529.5811. View all posts by Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

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